The nature of the student-institution relationship and behavioral indicators of personal and social responsibility
Boyd, Karen Denise
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The nature of students’ relationships with their educational institutions, manifested through institutional communication and attitude (e.g., protocol, policy, publications), and student interactions with faculty, administrators, and staff, are believed to contribute to the overall educational experience, influence student conduct, and affect ethical decision-making skills (Kuh, Lyons, Miller, & Trow, 1994). This quantitative study (a) Explored the correlation between student perceptions of the relational quality of the student−institution relationship (SIR) and their behavioral commitment to personal and social responsibility (PSR); (b) Examined the extent that selected relational quality outcomes (RQOs) explained students’ self-reported academic honesty and alcohol use/misuse; and (c) Identified which linear combination of RQOs―trust, relational commitment, relational satisfaction, control mutuality―and general mattering best predict college students’ actual levels of PSR behaviors. A historical review and theoretical framework of the SIR and PSR education guided the study’s design. A stratified random sample of 199 useable responses was collected from among students at a medium-sized masters comprehensive college which is a member of the Core Commitments Leadership Consortium of the Association of the American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). These students were asked to share their perceptions of the relational quality of their SIR and to self-report instances of academic dishonesty and alcohol use/misuse. The findings indicated that the broader organization−public relationship (OPR) structure and RQOs, when combined with General Mattering, provided a valid framework for examining, cultivating, and managing the relational impact of the SIR on college student behavioral outcomes, specifically PSR behaviors. This study also provided evidence for General Mattering as a collegiate RQO. Lastly, it produced evidence that RQOs predict PSR behaviors. Within that framework the SIR had a core nature that included General Mattering as a collegiate RQO. This study appears to be the first evidence that RQOs could predict actual behaviors with an ethical dimension. The core nature of the SIR shared many similarities with the school connectedness construct. The influence of the SIR, school connectedness and, in particular, RQOs on student PSR behaviors and other institutionally desirable behavioral outcomes call for further study.